Dating During the Holidays

 Let’s face it.  The Holidays can be challenging for many singles for a variety of reasons.  Dating during these busy and sometimes stressful times can also prove challenging.  While I will not say I have answers to these issues, I would like to share some of the challenges I encounter.  By sharing, I hope this may help some other who feel as I do!

Loneliness

Singles can feel lonely on any given day, but during the Holidays this can be amplified by basic Holiday activities.  For me, watching families just out enjoying shopping, or enjoying other Holiday fun can send me into a downward spiral that I don’t want to go down.  While I am genuinely happy for these families, and especially my friends, when I see the joy they have with their families, it hits me hard that I want this also, and don’t have it.  If I dwell on this too long, I am in trouble.  The Holidays tend to make me think of all the things I don’t have that are so valuable.  

When I was younger, I was so focused on having the husband, family,  good job, the latest fashions, nice house and nice car.  Out of all of those things, there were only two that were really worth spending my time on.  Since I felt education was the key to getting all of those material things I wanted in life, I lost focus of the things that mattered to me the most – a husband and family.  I spent 10 years in the prime of my life in college to get my education while working my way up the corporate ladder.  That did not leave me time to establish a solid relationship and several were destroyed in that time because they could not be properly nurtured.  I wasted so much time on the things that really did not matter and not enough on the ones that did.  The Holidays have a way of forcing me to think of these things when I watch others enjoying the families they have, and yearning for the one I don’t have.

Bittersweet Family Gatherings

While I love seeing my family and thoroughly enjoy the time with them, there is a real disconnect at family gatherings for me.  I listen to their banter of Christmas morning, the thrill of the children, the gifts received by the adults, and can only wish I had someone to share those memories with.  The Holidays are essentially very sad for me – and I haven’t even touched on New Years, yet!  New Years Gatherings are extremely stressful, with everyone toasting with their significant others, and kissing at New Year’s Eve and bringing in the new year with a new-found hope for their future together.  While I know my New Year will hold promises I have not yet imagined, I cannot help but be brought to my knees at the thought of having another year alone without love in my life.  Many of my single friends don’t really understand the deep desire and longing I have for being married.  Many have spent years in marriage.  I have not.  At family gatherings, I feel a little left out and forgotten.  I don’t have stories to share of Christmas morning, and I have received gifts from no one.

Someone to Enjoy Holiday Events With

Another stressful thing is going to Holiday events alone, being a third wheel, or just not going at all because you have no one to go with.  Sure, many people go to events with friends, and that is great!  I do, too!  However, some events are just not the same without a special love in your life to enjoy them with.  For someone who yearns for love, the Holidays can be a very lonely and stressful time.

Some Things that Can Help

As briefly mentioned above, there are some things you can do to alleviate the stress and loneliness. Spending time with friends enjoying festivities certainly helps.  You can find Holiday singles mixers to meet others just like you!  You could do what I do and keep really busy, so you don’t have time to think about it.  While most of us try to embrace being single and making the best of it, there are times when it can get to us.  We all put on our brave faces and go out into the world, but brave faces do not change the way we feel inside.  .

Since this post is a little different than most of my posts, and the intention is to help others by letting them know they are not alone in how they feel, I would love to hear some things you do to manage the stress of being single during the Holidays.

 

Are You Too Busy to Date?

Busy

How Busy is too Busy?

The answer to this question depends on who you ask.  As an extremely busy person, I am asked this all the time when communicating with men online.  Usually they will ask probing questions trying to figure out if I will make time for them in my schedule.  The answer is: it depends.

First, I will not cancel any of my plans for a date.  Most of these men, you never hear from again, so they need to find a time that is good for me if they want to meet.  This can be challenging since I keep an extremely full schedule, but it also gives me a very good indication of what the man is all about.  If he is respectful and understanding, then he is worth meeting.  Any man who questions me too much or acts like me being busy is a problem is almost certainly not the man for me.

While some may not agree with me, my take on this is that a man would expect you to understand if he is busy and would expect you to work with his schedule.  What is the difference if it is a women?  There is none – other than that some men expect women to cater to their needs without regard to hers.  For this simple reason, I know right away if someone will work with my lifestyle.  Someone who seems as though he wants all my time and attention prior to even knowing me, will surely be far too needy and clingy for me.

Prioritizing Dating and the Rest of your Life

I have a canned response when someone asks me if I am too busy to date right now. And that response is: “Today everyone is busy and if we all wait until we are not busy to date, we may be dead first.”  It is true, if you think about it.  Who do you know that is NOT busy?  Not very many people can say that.

While I will not cancel anything in my schedule to accommodate a date, I will reprioritize if I meet someone worth a relationship.  This is the part that men do not seem to get.  They see busy and they think there is no room for them.  As in anything important in life, it is all about priorities!  When we first meet someone, they have not earned a place in our schedules before other things in our lives.  When we establish a relationship with someone, that shifts, and they become a higher priority than some of those other things.  For any man to expect a women to cancel other plans to go on a date with them is totally unrealistic, since there is no guarantee you will even like each other.  However, when a relationship is being established and people spend more time together, they have earned a place in our schedules.  I am uncertain as to why men only see busy as no place for them.  It could be selfishness, it could be ego, it could be neediness, or something deeper like control issues.  However, I do know that if someone doesn’t respect my life as it is now, and does not want to work on a common time to meet, it puts up all kinds of red flags for me.

NO ONE is too busy to date if it is something that is important to them.  Stop asking.  If we did not want to be dating, we would not be looking!  Don’t be needy, be a gentleman!  Happy dating!

 

Single, Divorced, or Other

  One of the mistakes people make with their online dating profile is they do not properly classify themselves. You may ask what the big deal is if you are not attached and honestly looking for someone.  Again, I must revisit the honesty aspect of dating.  You need to be totally honest if you are to find someone who is right for you.  If a prospective date feels you are not being totally honest, you will either lose their interest or their respect.  If someone is looking to have a long term relationship, this is one area that you cannot compromise in your search.  While all of this should go without saying, we have all seen our share is information on profiles that is either not true, embellished, or downright fabricated.

SINGLE

You are only single if you have NEVER been married.  Period.  There is no discussion or “but if’s” that should be taking place here.  Single is single.  There are many reasons this may be important to others who view your profile.  One reason is that some people, for religious reasons, are not comfortable dating someone who has been divorced.  This may be hugely important to them!  Another reason this may be important to someone is if someone has children, they will more than likely be looking for someone who fits into their children’s life also.  They will consider maturity level and lifestyle, and never being married does come into play many times.  One last reason I want to address here for a single status being of importance is that if you are over a certain age (for example 40, just for my example’s purpose) and you have never been married, there are certain things that a potential date will be considering:  1) What is wrong with this person? 2) Does this person have a commitment problem?  3) Is he a womanizer? or 4) What other issues are going on with this person that prevent them from having been married by this age?  While some of this thought process may not seem fair, there are very valid reasons to think about each of these questions.

Do not mistake me here, there are many, many wonderful people out there who are single and have never been married for a multitude of reason, including they just haven’t found the right one yet.  However, I am suggesting that for some, there is a lot more to it than that.  So if you find someone who has never been married and is over 40, dig deep to find out everything you can.  This does NOT suggest there is anything wrong with them – they may just not have found YOU yet!  I am only saying to tread with caution!

DIVORCED

Again, divorced is divorced!!  PERIOD.  This also should be a no-brainer, but for some it is a whole discussion.  Divorced means you have gone through the whole time period of a legal separation, as required by your state, and been granted a divorce by the state.  Divorced never, ever means you are separated.  IF YOU ARE SEPARATED, YOU ARE NOT DIVORCED – no question about it!  On almost every dating site, there is a category for separated – use it!  While some may think this is no big deal because they WILL BE divorced, it is a HUGE deal to others who are looking and sincerely want to find that right one and get married.  Separated means you are not available to get married, maybe not for a very long time.  You should not be misleading someone who really wants that in their life.  It is just not right to lead someone into a relationship that cannot be what they are looking for.  Some may argue that if the two parties have a great relationship then there is nothing wrong with it.  I disagree.  While you may have a great relationship with each other, you are still preventing that person from living out their life hopes and dreams of marriage, or you are asking them to wait until you are available.  If you are willing to be this unfair to someone now, how do you expect them to think this would ever change?  There is just nothing right about lying about your real availability when dating.  It hurt others and breaks hearts, and there is no acceptable excuse for it.

OTHER

Another kind of man (or women) we find is the one who is already in a relationship, but not married.  Yes, unfortunately, they are out there trolling the dating sites.  They will act in a similar manner to the married men.  They will be secretive about where they live, come to your neighborhood for a date (of course, they will say if is for your convenience), they may avoid phone calls while on the date, but they will always be charming.  They are trying to woo you into being their side thing.  If you are seeing any red flags, or even question marks along the way, get their last name and google them.  Check out Facebook tagged pictures (many are public).  There are so many things you can find out online without paying for a background check.  Property searches are public records – I once found out a man was married by the property search (the document included his wife’s name).  Be diligent if you are serious about marriage in your future.  There are many fabrications on dating profiles.  Unfortunately, it is a buyer beware marketplace.

There are great people to meet online, but you need to be smart about it!  Do not give up hope if you run into these characters, for you surely will.  Just know that for each of these characters, there are also well-meaning wonderful men online.  Enjoy those you meet and appreciate the experience.  As we get older, the gems are harder to find, but keep looking – he is out there.  He may find you if you keep the right attitude about your search and enjoy the moments instead of being discouraged.  Seriously, have fun with it!  Life is an adventure – enjoy the ride!

Online Dating Hazards

  For anyone who has done any online dating, I do not need to tell you some of the obvious hazards of trying to to find love online.  However, I will address some of these issues one by one and offer some potential solutions to avoid all the aggravation they bring.

The Picture

If someone has a picture in which they look unusually good for their posted age, the picture may be a lot older than they would like you to know.  If you are communicating with someone like this, ask them how old the picture is!   They may or may not tell you if you ask directly, so here are some things you can do to find out without asking directly.  If they have a picture of them doing something, or at a specific place, show interest in that place and ask when they were there.  People naturally like talking about themselves, and they are more likely to let slip the “when” if you ask them to talk about the event.

If they have a series of pictures, ask them in what order they were taken.  Pictures do not necessarily appear in chronological order on profiles.  Some people do actually look better now than they did when they were younger.  The idea here is to get a realistic idea of who the person is today and the progression of the series.  While looks alone should never be the only determining factor, they do and will play a part in your decision-making.

The Fake Profile (Married, Committed, or Otherwise Not Available)

Since many of the sites, especially the free sites, do little to screen people on their sites, we must be vigilant in doing our own leg work to investigate potential dates.   There are many, many men (and I am sure some women, too) on dating sites who are either married or in committed relationships.  So how do we know who they are?  Well, sometimes, we don’t!

However, there are a few things you can do to help you determine if the possibility is there.   One thing I have done, although it can be time consuming, is to search other dating sites with the well-defined search information (so the # of hits is limited to a manageable number).   I did this with one man and found out he had different categories listed on different sites (single, separated, and divorced).  This should have been a red flag, but this was actually where I learned this lesson!  I did date this man, who told me he was actually divorced.

As it turned out, he was not divorced.  He was actually legally separated, still living in the same house as his wife.  He told me they had filed for divorce, but since they were both looking for work neither could afford to get their own place.   Since he lied initially, I did not believe they were separated and getting divorced and broke off the relationship.

However, as it turned out, this man was telling me the truth and has since been divorced, and both have moved on.  This is why I say to people to ALWAYS be honest.  Had he been honest from the beginning, I may still not have believed him, but I would have certainly been a lot more forgiving than to someone who thinks it is okay to lie about who he really is.  Lies always kick you in the butt in the end.  The truth always comes out in the end, so why risk a potential relationship by filling it with lies?  If something in a profile does not add up, or there are pictures with a woman who always seems to be cut out of the picture – stay away!  Dating profiles should never contain picture with others cut out of them.  Everyone knows someone who can snap a few pictures of them for their profile. This should always raise red flags, so beware.

The Scam Artist 

We’ve all seen them.  You know those dating profiles you run across where they immediately send you their phone number typed out digit by digit spelled out in words instead of numbers or their email address typed out by syllable.  Men, if you are guilty of this – STOP IMMEDIATELY!  Ladies, stay away from these men.   Here’s why.  There are a lot of scams out there in which people either try to get your phone number to hijack it to make calls to other countries or want your email address to SPAM you, send you computer viruses, or sell either of these pieces of information to those who will do these things.

KEEP ALL COMMUNICATION ON THE DATING SITES!  These sites store data and can retrieve it if there is ever a serious issue.  Be safe when you communicate with strangers online.  If someone asks for your personal information right away, there is usually a reason – and not a good one.  Sure, they will tell you their membership is up, or better yet, that they are on the site for a free weekend, or any number of other excuses, but do not buy into these stories.  If it is a paid site and someone wants to meet you , then they need to pay for at least one month to communicate with you.  If they are too cheap to pay for one month of service, do you really want someone like that?  You should never be rushed into giving your personal information online!  If he has a true interest in you, then he will also respect your privacy.  If he doesn’t, then you do not want him.  After all, that is the whole reason to be on these sites – to keep your personal information private.  Be smart and date safely!  Your chances of finding your Mr. Maybe actually do increase if you weed out the ones you would not want anyway!

You Do Not Need a Man to Be Happy

  Most, but not all of us, want someone to share our lives with.  In this quest, we sometimes lose sight of some of the gifts we have in our lives already.  While we may want to find that special someone, the road to finding him can be long and treacherous.  Along the way, many of us have our ups and downs, we need shoulders to cry on and sounding boards to listen to us and reason with us.  We usually do this with our girlfriends!

As I have pointed out in the beginning of this blog, you need to start with you.  True happiness comes from within and no other person on earth can make you happy if you have not searched your heart and decided that is who you are.  Sure, there are situations that make you happy or unhappy, but true happiness is a state of being and not determined by a specific situation.

Think of all the riches you have in your life already!  You probably have a full life, as many do today!  You have your family, your girlfriends, maybe a pet, and many other things that make your life rich and fulfilled.  Sometimes when we are too focused on that one thing we are lacking, we forget about all the other things that bring us joy.

If you truly do want to find your Mr. Maybe, or maybe want to get married, keep searching!  But do NOT give up living a full life in the meantime!  Go out with your friends, have fun, make dinner dates with your friends, meet your mom or sister for coffee – make the effort!  Your chances of finding the right man for you are much better if you are living the life you want to live without him!  When you meet him, he will easily fit into your life because your life will be what you want it already (with him being the only missing piece)!

A man will always find you more attractive if you are having fun and enjoying your life. He will want to get to know you!  On the other hand, if you mope around and play “poor me”, then you will only attract someone like that, and you do not want that!  Remember, you want a man who fits your non-negotiables.  If you are living your life as you want your life, you are more likely to meet someone who falls in line with what you are looking for!  Keep an open mind when you are out enjoying your life.  Keep your eyes open, but never look desperate – men will run from that.  Be your authentic self and you will attract a man who is drawn to the real you!  Live your life and be happy!

How to Find Out What He Wants in a Woman

So far I have focused on what you are looking for in a man, and how to get this information out of  him on your date.  While you are focused on evaluating him based on what you are looking for, you had better believe he is doing the same!  Even if he is everything you dream of finding in a man, if you are not what he is looking for, it is still not a good match.    You need to listen more than you speak and really read between the lines of what is being said to understand what he truly wants.

If a man says that something is important to him, you need to understand that this is not going to change and you need to assess how you feel about that particular issue.  By the time we get to our 40’s, there are few fundamental things about who we are that would ever change.  We have already lived, learned and established habits, likes and dislikes that are well-defined.  This is not to say that things do not change and people do not grow because we absolutely do and should!  However, fundamental values do not alter all that much.  If you find through conversation that there are questions about how he feels about a specific topic, ask for more details.  If it is something that is important to him, he will fill you in.  He knows you are evaluating him just like he is doing the same with you.

So what happens when you find the perfect guy for you based on your must-haves and non-negotiables, but you find there is something he is looking for that you feel you are not?  My suggestion will always be that the key is conversation!  It is better to address what could potentially be big issues right up front before either of you is emotionally invested in a relationship.  It is much easier to deal with these types of issues now than to have them cause problems in your relationship in the future and one or both of you ends up hurt and broken-hearted.  I realize this is not romantic or fun, but if you are in your 40’s or older and you really do want to find the right one to spend your life with, do you really have the time not to address them?

For instance, if he feels that finding a woman who is financially stable is important, and you have been through several jobs in the past few years, your finances are a mess, and you are barely able to make ends meet, you do not want to mislead him into thinking otherwise.  If this is important to him, it will definitely affect your relationship in an adverse way going forward.  Plus, he will feel you have not been honest with him, which is a whole other issue.  In these economic times, things are tough, and everyone does know that.  It is better to be honest and have an honest discussion than to leave him disillusioned about who you are.

But when is the right time to bring up something you feel you are not fitting into his non-negotiables and must-haves?  The answer will come as the relationship progresses.  I would not suggest on the first date because you want to allow for time to get to know each other a bit so the other can make a more informed decision.  I would, however, suggest these issues be addressed in a timely manner before you both have too much time and emotion invested and end up hurt and disillusioned by dating.  It is always better to be honest with someone you are seriously looking at potentially having a future with.  How they respond and work with you through whatever the situation is will say a lot about their character and who they are, so it will be a way you can really know for sure if this is the right person for you.  If he calmly listens in an understanding way, and wants to work through the issue with you, you have found a gem, so make every effort to work with him to get to where you need to be.  Let’s face it, relationships are hard, and in these times in Internet Dating and economic hardship, it is even harder.

As previously referenced in comments on a prior blog post, I have recently read a book written by a famous talk show host and celebrity on what men want.  He makes men seem so primal and simplistic, and many men can be.  However, I would like to at least be optimistic in thinking they are a little more complex than this author alludes to.  As with most things in life, the key is good open honest communication.  You want to learn about him and who he really is just as he wants the same in return.  Be respectful of each other, your time, your hearts, and most of all understand that being honest with each other will set the precedent for all future interaction (as well as dishonesty does).  You want the right man to be in your life just as he wants the right woman.  Do we not owe this to ourselves?

Are Non-Negotiables Ever Negotiable?

As the saying goes, the only constant in life is change.  Life is constantly changing.  We, as individuals, are constantly changing.  Our situations are constantly changing.  The point is that we need to reassess our thinking from time to time to make sure it aligns with our lives, goals, dreams and who we are. For instance, if you are very active, you may only want to consider someone who has a similar activity level.  However, if something should happen to your health, and you are no longer able to keep up the same level of activity, your non-negotiable of an active partner may now shift to align with your current situation.  A man who you may once have not considered ideal may now be ideal due to your new situation.  This is not to say that your standards have lowered, but merely they have shifted to better align with your present situation.  These men were ideal for others, but not you in the past.  Now they are ideal for you, also.  You have just expanded your dating pool due to an unfortunate personal situation.  The same thing can happen in reverse – a negotiable item may become non-negotiable due to changing life circumstances. The point is to make sure you are looking for the right Mr. Maybe.  The right one will align with who you are and support you in where you are going, no matter how the situation changes going forward.  Once you are together you will go through the constant change together and will need to keep communication open to stay in alignment with each other.

It is hard enough finding our Mr. Maybe, so we need to make sure we are re-evaluating our life situations and not counting out the many potential good matches that pass our way every day.  While we may always have certain things that will be non-negotiable, other things may change from non-negotiable to negotiable, and vice versa.  Try to keep an open mind with each new person you meet, but do not compromise the core of who you are.

If you are on a date and you are unsure of something – ask!  Do not be shy about asking people about things in question – this is important!  It is vital to learn this information so you know where to effectively spend your time in your quest for love.  It is not very effective dating quantity, if the quality is not there.  Date smartly.  If you are like me at this point in life, your time is valuable.  Do not waste your precious time on dates with men who are not ideal or carry non-negotiables on your list.  They will not be changing and you should not expect they will.  Date the right ones.  I know it doesn’t seem like it at times, but they really are out there somewhere – you just need to weed out all the Mr. Wrongs.  If you really do want to find your Mr. Maybe, you will.  It may take awhile, but you will find him easier and faster if you are dating the right men instead men you think will change or men who are not up to your standards.  Mr. Maybe is out there and he wants the same thing you do.  Be smart, because he will appreciate that you are!